Our Lab

 

 

 

 

William Ryan James, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow

wjames@fiu.edu

Research Topic: My research interests include understanding the drivers of consumer distribution, movement, and resource use, the role of habitat configuration and composition on ecosystem processes, and the recovery of ecosystem function following restoration and disturbance. Currently at FIU, my research focuses on the impacts of altered freshwater inflows in Florida Bay, and its consequences for seagrass ecosystems.

About Me: I received my BS in Biology from the University of Alabama. Following graduation, I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for my MS, and in 2020, I completed my PhD at the University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Carissa Gervasi, Ph.D. Student

cgerv002@fiu.edu

Research Topic: Fisheries management

About Me: I received my BS degrees in Marine Biology and Chemistry from Roger Williams University in 2011, where I studied ecology of juvenile flatfish and bluefish toxicology. I then went on to pursue my MS degree in Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, focusing on fisheries population dynamics and pathobiology in the Chesapeake Bay. After working as a histotechnologist for a few years I decided to come back to school and started a PhD program at FIU in the Earth and Environment department in 2016. For my dissertation I am working closely with recreational anglers and state managers to develop a management plan for the Jack Crevalle, a valuable pelagic fish species whose population may be in decline.

Jordan A. Massie, Ph.D. Student

jmassie@fiu.edu

Research Topic: My primary research interests include aquatic community and population dynamics, along with understanding how biotic and physical habitat variables interact to influence the distribution of fishes over time and space. At FIU my research will focus on fish communities in the Florida coastal Everglades in order to better understand changing conditions and help inform ongoing restoration efforts.

About Me: My formative years were spent in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but I moved west as a young man and spent a number of years in Oregon. After a prosperous career in the bicycle industry, I returned to school at Oregon State University where I received my BSc in Fisheries & Wildlife Science. I have worked extensively in the remote wilderness as both a terrestrial and aquatic biologist on projects ranging from using radio telemetry to characterize the movement of Bighorn Sheep to studying the long term influence of timber harvest on fish and amphibians in headwater streams. Before coming to FIU, I worked as an aquatic ecologist in a federal research laboratory as part of a team developing new models to characterize the distribution of fish assemblages under current and future scenarios in order to help communities and governments guide restoration and conservation efforts. In recent years I have also been active in field based educational outreach programs teaching elementary school students about riverine fish ecology.

Jonathan Rodemann, Ph.D. Student

Jrode010@fiu.edu

Research Topic: How biotic and abiotic factors affect fish movement and behavior. During my time at FIU, I am focusing on how habitat transformation caused by a seagrass die-off in Florida Bay has affected the movement and trophic ecology of recreational sportfish.

About me: Growing up in New Jersey, I developed a love for ocean creatures from a young age. After high school, my interest in marine life brought me to south Florida, where I obtained a B.S. in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami. I attended a non-thesis based Master’s program at Northeastern University called the Three Seas Program, where I spent time in Boston, Panama, and Washington state learning about the marine ecosystems of these regions. This program ended with an internship with the Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network looking at the variation in marine consumption pressure along a latitudinal gradient. I was then drawn back down to south Florida, where I started a PhD at FIU in the Coastal Fisheries Lab.

Nicholas Castillo, Ph.D. Student

ncast169@fiu.edu

Research Topic: The potential impacts of contaminants on the bonefish decline in South Florida. By comparing bonefish sampled throughout South Florida with bonefish from other Caribbean basins including the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Belize I plan to identify present levels of contaminants and assess the relative risk in South Florida compared to the rest of the Caribbean.

About Me: I studied at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Following graduation, I worked as a backcountry and inshore fishing guide out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. I apply my lifelong love of fishing and Florida’s marine ecosystems with my experience within Florida Bay and the Florida Keys as a fishing guide to my current PhD research. I have travelled to Puerto Rico to collect bonefish samples, and am currently sampling the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay. I greatly look forward to completing my research and PhD with the Rehage Lab!

Cody Eggenberger, Ph.D. Student

cegge004@fiu.edu

Research Topic: Habitat utilization of recreational fish species in northern Florida Bay mangrove lakes.

About Me: I received my B.S. from Michigan State University in 2014 with a major in Zoology. Having broad interests in trophic ecology, migration ecology and marine ecosystem management, my project focuses on the movement and trophic dynamics of Tarpon, Common Snook, Lemon Sharks, and Bull Sharks in protected mangrove lakes of north Florida Bay.

Mack White, Ph.D. Student

mwhit160@fiu.edu

Research Topic: My research aims to further understand the functional roles of animals. Specifically, I am interested in how animals are able to move energy throughout the different environments they occupy over the course of their life and how different abiotic and biotic conditions may mediate the magnitude and ecological importance of those energy subsidies.

About Me: I was fortunate enough to grow up in wild and wonderful West Virginia, something I am super proud of! Growing up I was obsessed with the water and honestly rather confused about how things were able to live full-time under the waterline – it seemed like an entire other planet. Long story short, that curiosity never went away so I went to Marshall University where I received my BS in Environmental Science. Following a short stint in the professional world, I attended Tennessee Tech University where I earned an M.S. in Biology while researching the ability for suckers to deliver limiting nutrients via excretion, eggs, and carcasses during their spawning migrations. All of this led me to FIU where I will be researching animal resource subsidies in the Everglades!

Nicolas Rivas, Ph.D. Student

nirivas@fiu.edu

Research Topic: I am studying fish population dynamics in response to coral reef restoration efforts in Culebra, Puerto Rico. We are interested in testing the efficacy of 3D printed corals to restore fish populations as compared to live coral. We are using BRUVS and photogrammetry techniques to track fish populations, coral distribution and recruitment.

About Me: I was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to Florida when was five years old. My family and I went to the beach almost every weekend which sparked my interest in marine life. I attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando to pursue a degree in Biology with a focus in pre-med. Halfway through I joined a lab to gain research experience and decided to switch my focus from pre-med to marine biology. Since then, I earned my B.S. in Biology from UCF and later earned my M.S. in Marine Biology and Ecology from the University of Miami RSMAS. I am now pursuing my Ph.D. here at FIU where I will be researching fish population dynamics in relation to coral restoration.

Natasha Viadero, MS Student

nviadero@fiu.edu

Research Topic: Movement Ecology

About Me: Born and raised in South Florida, I developed a love for the outdoors at a young age. I joined the lab as an independent study student while completing my last semester of my undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies, BS. Shortly after graduating, I began working as a laboratory technician where I have been given the opportunity to take part in multiple projects, gain valuable experience, and further my academic career. My project evaluates the timing and extent of habitat use of Largemouth Bass in Shark River, ENP under varying conditions.

Joshua Linenfelser, MS Student

jline006@fiu.edu

Research Topic: Ecosystem Ecology

About Me: After receiving my Bachelors of Science degree in the field of Marine Biology from Florida International University (2019), I quickly underwent a fellowship program funded by the National Science Foundation known as an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in the, Jennifer Rehage, Coastal Fish Ecology Lab. Following this fellowship, I am currently continuing as a lab technician in the Rehage lab where I assist in research mainly focusing on habitat utilization of recreational fish species in the northern Florida Bay mangrove lakes. Having research interests in conservation biology, ecosystem ecology, and marine biodiversity I plan to continue into an academic career of graduate school to fulfill my goal of obtaining a PhD and continuing on a professional career path focused on the pursuit of knowledge and insight towards better understanding the marine environment.

Lauren Kabat, MS Student

lkabat@fiu.edu

Research Topic:  I am studying the effects of disturbance on freshwater shrimp movement at the Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research site in El Yunque forest, Puerto Rico. Through collaboration with scientists at the University of Puerto Rico, we are sampling headwater streams and exploring tagging techniques to track individuals at varied spatiotemporal scales.

About Me: I grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from Furman University with a BS in Biology. Before coming to FIU, I collected catch and biospecimen data as a Fisheries Observer in Alaska, and supervised Mote Marine Laboratory’s nighttime sea turtle tagging program. These field experiences paired with several environmental education opportunities around the globe led to a deep appreciation of the natural environment, a love of travel and exploration, and an interest in studying animal movement. 

Shakira Trabelsi, Laboratory Manager

strab002@fiu.edu

Research Topics: Ecology, Ecotoxicology, Hydrology

About Me:  I am a South Florida native, born and raised. Spending most of my summers in Colombia as a child, my love for the outdoors especially aquatic creatures and habitats began early. I started in the lab as an intern on the Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUVs) project during my sophomore year, and began as a lab technician during my junior year. After graduating in the spring of 2020 with my Bachelors in Environmental Studies, I was promoted to lab manager. I am eternally grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to aid on a wide range of projects, gaining knowledge, experience, and many great memories.

Lauren Padron, Laboratory Technician

lpadron@fiu.edu

Research Topics: Hydrology, Ecology, Water Management.

About Me: I was born in Cuba and raised in Miami since 2004. My participation in the lab started with the Coastal Everglades Lakes (CELA) and has now branched out to Shark River and Florida Bay (MAP, BRUV and E-SCAPES). I actively learn about and love helping out in the Everglades research. Working in ecology and seeing scientific progress happen first hand is a huge motivator in my life right now. A recent graduate from a Philosophy B.A. (2018), I am continuing my education to complete a Mechanical Engineering B.S. towards work in hydrology and to further bridge people and science throughout my career.

Andy Distrubell, Laboratory Technician

adist002@fiu.edu

Research Topics: Coastal Ecology

About Me: I was born and raised in Miami and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies under the Natural Resources track. I enjoy being outdoors and have a passion for fishing and conservation. I began at the Coastal Fisheries Research Lab as an REU student and gained tons of knowledge in a laboratory setting. Being a lab and field technician has taught me how to process field samples for Stable Isotope analysis for various research projects that include tracking fish movement in Everglades National Park. I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in various research studies and gain so much research experience!

  Valentina Bautista, Laboratory Technician

  vbaut001@fiu.edu

  Research Topics: Coastal Ecology

 About Me: My journey with the lab began when I was given the opportunity to be an intern on a project that utilized Arcmap skills to highlight the impact suspended sediment was having on Florida Bay ecology. Luckily for me, that experience put me in a position to be hired as a full-time research technician working alongside graduate students utilizing different research approaches such as laboratory processing, fieldwork, or program analysis. In the meantime, I graduated from FIU with two degrees (B.S. Environmental Studies and B.A. in Sustainability & the Environment) with the prospects of having a career that encompasses taking care of our natural resources. As I continue working with the lab I’m avidly gaining experience and knowledge that will further my understanding of Florida ecology. 

 

Former Lab Members

Ryan Rezek, Ph.D Postdoctoral fellow

rrezek@coastal.edu

Ryan completed a two year postdoctoral fellowship in 2021 working on using stable isotopes and other food web analysis techniques to study habitats along the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) to characterize the effect environmental variations have on the pathways of energy flow across the system. He currently works as an assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University.

Jesse R. Blanchard, Ph.D.

blanchje@fiu.edu

Jesse completed his dissertation in 2018. His research focused on building an understanding of how behavioral and invasion ecology influence the metacommunity assembly process in the Rocky Glades. He is now an adjunct professor in the Earth & Environment Department here at FIU.

David Stormer, Ph.D., Postdoctoral fellow

david.stormer@dfw.wa.gov

David completed a one-year Postdoctoral fellow in 2017. He currently works as a Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Manager for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Vanessa Trujillo, Ph.D. 

vanessa.trujillo@miamidade.gov

Vanessa completed her dissertation at FIU in 2016 with a research focus on native and non-native fish interactions and how stress mediates those interactions. She currently works for the Deering Estates as an outreach coordinator.

 

Greg Hill, MS

Greg completed his thesis in 2017 with a research focus on fish movement and habitat selection in relation to water level fluctuations and the effects on food web dynamics in the Everglades. He currently works as a project coordinator for the Wood River Wolf Project at the Lava Lake Institute for Science & Conservation in Idaho. 

Ross Boucek, Ph.D.

ross@bonefishtarpontrust.org

Ross completed his dissertation at FIU in 2016. He investigated how climate disturbance events influence mesoconsumer movements, namely snook. He went on to a Postdoctoral position with FWC and in now working with The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. 

Christine Beck, MS

Christine completed her thesis in 2016 where she looked at the effects of contaminants on coastal fisheries, mainly the South Florida bonefish fishery. She is currently an elementary school science teacher. 

Emily Kroloff, MS

Emily completed her thesis in 2016 where she evaluated bonefish decline in South Florida by incorporating Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) of life-long bonefish guides. After graduating, she joined the Peace Core.

 

Lyanne S. Mendez, Undergraduate Intern

Lyanne conducted an independent study doing a meta-analysis of the responses of prey to evolutionarily novel predators. Lyanne completed the MS program in Environmental Policy and Law at the University of Vermont and currently works for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.

Jessica A. Lee, MS

Jessica’s research examined the effects of marsh drying severity on the survival of coastal Florida largemouth bass in the Everglades. She kick started our CAST program that taps into the wealth of information local anglers have on their preferred fishing areas.
Jessica currently conducts educational outreach in Biscayne Bay for the National Park Trust.

David A. Gandy, MS

Dave’s Masters examined the role of canals surrounding the Everglades as habitat for both native and nonnative fishes.

Dave currently heads the Apalachicola Field Laboratory, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Kenneth Adair, Undergraduate REU student, Florida Atlantic University

Kenneth completed the summer REU program where he studied spawing behavior of snook.  

Felipe Tamayo, High School Intern, Feliz Varela Senior High

Felipe participated in the high school summer intern program at FIU where he studied foraging behavior of snook in Shark River, ENP. 

Diana P. Lopez, MS

Diana’s Master’s examined population level variation in the behavioral and life history traits of nonnative African jewelfish across invasion front and interior populations. Diana went on to pursue her PhD at Temple University in Amy Freestone’s lab.

Lauren McCarthy, MS

Lauren examined the segregation of shrimp species along an estuarine gradient in the coastal Everglades. Lauren went on to completed her Ph.D. at Eastern Carolina University in Dave Chalcraft’s lab.

Lauren Barth, MS

Lauren’s master’s examined the nesting behavior of endangered Key Largo woodrats in relation to forest metrics. Lauren is a small mammal and bird technician at Texas A&M.